By on January 15, 2019

What’s Datsun, Nissan, and Sunny all over? It’s this pristine Nissan Sentra wagon, hailing from 1982.

The Sunny line started back in 1966 as a compact car which touted fuel efficiency and economical motoring as its most important qualities. Intended as a competitor to the Toyota Corolla, it was introduced the very same year.

A second generation launched for 1970, and in export markets was known as the Datsun 1200. This generation came to North America after Datsun made changes to interiors and bumpers to comply with new U.S. government regulations. The 1200 strengthened Datsun’s foothold in North America, with the company shifting about 44,000 units of its 1200 model each year between 1971 and 1973.

The third-generation Sunny was ready for 1974, now known to Americans as the B-210. Datsun kept the original Sunny’s characteristics intact, as the B-210 was one of the cheapest and most fuel-efficient cars American consumers could buy.

In 1978 a new Sunny debuted around the world, wearing a body which gained five inches in length over its predecessor. North America waited a little longer, as a new 210 (no B) was not available until 1979. This generation ran through 1982, when both Datsun and the Sunny had a last-of moment.

As the new model replaced the old in the latter half of 1982, it took with it the Datsun name, rear-drive layout, and the 210 moniker. This new vehicle was now front-drive, and called Sentra. It was sold by Nissan, and made available at your local Datsun-Nissan dealer. Available in coupe, hatch, sedan, and wagon formats, the Sentra had between two and five doors. It was the second model to utilize the no-numbers naming scheme introduced by Nissan in 1981, when it debuted the new Stanza at the New York Auto Show.

Along with front-wheel drive, the Sentra switched to a more modern overhead cam-style engine, rather than the prior 210’s overhead valve arrangement. All engines had four cylinders, of 1.5, 1.6, or 1.7 liters in displacement. Two manual transmissions were available (three- and four-speed), along with a three-speed automatic.

The new Sentra was immediately successful, once again offering low prices and fuel-sipping economy figures. In its first full year of sales for 1983, Sentra moved an impressive 209,889 examples. That figure made it the eighth most popular passenger car in America.

Before long, Nissan found itself preparing for the next generation of Sentra. Production moved to the company’s brand new Smyrna, Tennessee factory in 1985. In that year, the new factory built the old B11 Sentra as it readied itself for the incoming B12 Sentra in 1986. It’s worth mentioning the Rare Rides series has featured a B12 Sentra before, in the form of an imported right-hand and four-wheel drive Sunny sourced from Japan.

Today’s Rare Ride is from the first year of B11 Sentra production, 1982. In wagon format and with an automatic transmission, it’s traveled just over 55,000 miles. It seems to have the base 1.4-liter engine, and few power options to match those basic steel wheels. The ad copy has so many typos I can’t really read it, but eBay says the price is $2,999.

[Images: seller]

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46 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Base Model Nissan Sentra Wagon From 1982...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The third gen was the B-210, not the 210. I took my driver’s ed behind-the-wheel in a four-door, automatic ’77 B-210, and a gal I dated for a couple of years had a ’77 5-speed hatchback; I learned how drive a manual on that car.

    The first 210 debuted for 1979.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Love this thing. If it were a stick it’d be perfect.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Lmao at the ad. Hes never seen Datsun-Nissan badges before! And check out that leather interior! Corey was right, the ad is awful.

      • 0 avatar

        I didn’t get very far reading it, honestly.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          I skimmed over it after fumbling through the first few lines. This guy makes a living selling these cars on eBay, maybe he should take some night classes so his ads dont read like a 12 year old wrote them.

          I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but when writing an ad, I do try to present myself as decently knowledgeable, and I correct any mistakes as soon as I can (as in grammar or factual).

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        1ownercarguy has an interesting youtube channel. He identifies himself as Cereal Marshmallows on there. He’s a character.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    My mother bought a new 1983 2 door hatchback. It was a great little car with a lot of room. But man was that rear hatch glass huge and it sure was slow with the 3 speed auto. I think hers was the 1.6L.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I had a 1985 Sentra coupe for a short time in high school. I liked it better than the Tercel I got later, but that isnt saying much.

    Can’t say this example can turn my negative feelings on wagons around, if anything, it strengthens them as much as seeing a big old vinyl-wood-covered American wagon from the 70s or 80s. No thanks. I’d sooner drive a Toyota CH-R.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Mine was a 1.6 with manual. Was a reliable car until the head gasket failed. I replaced the gasket myself, but it failed again a few months later. I then took the cylinder head to get machined, reinstalled again…head gasket failed again. I was done at that point.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Yeah, I don’t think these were as durable as the A14 engine in the B-210.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I agree, the one I got had just gotten its head gasket replaced, and several I’ve seen since had the same issue.

        I’d much rather have the old B-210, especially the earlier ones. Yes, they were impossibly cheap and crude, but they were reliable and could be fun (check out the South African Datsun 160Z).

        • 0 avatar
          threeer

          Ahhh…the B-210. By father bought one, highly used, from my sister’s roommate when he did a stint in DC. He bought it for something stupid like $500. But that thing would NOT die! He drove it, loaded with stuff, over the Appalachian mountains on the way home to TN with a slipping clutch. By the time it was, um, gifted to me for my first year in college, it was well worn. Didn’t need the key, as the car ran with (or without) it. Gave it to my cousin, who gave it to HIS younger brother-in-law. We lovingly called it the “Bean” due to it’s less than flattering faded brown paint. Between that, my 1978 Arrow, my sister’s 1981 Mazda GLC and later, my son’s 1997 Tercel, I think I have a rather unhealthy love of cheap cars!

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I once worked at a place that had an A14 propane powered forklift.
        A reliable workhorse.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          The A14 engine was the old Austin/BMC ‘B’ series engine made under license ~ Datsun made them, by the millions but quality built ~ the forklifts used them up to 1992 that I know of, when an old MGB cracked yet another cylinder head we’d buy a rebuilt A14 forklift head ($250) and plop it on, bolted right up and only needed some metric fasteners for the rockers and manifolds, worked like a charm .

          All the beater 210’s & B210’s seem to be gone in So. Cal. now .

          -Nate

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    We got a new 1980 Datsun 210 (B-201 Sunny?) 2-door (with a trunk), that we ran the heck out of. It was a ‘stripped’ model, with no floor carpeting, etc. Just an AM radio and an auto. Used it to run things around/for business for 3 years and well over 100,000kms. With multiple drivers and absolute minimal maintenance. It never complained or caused any problems.

    Not sophisticated but was nearly perfect for the role we needed it for (cheap and reliable).

    At the time, I believe that they were advertised as the least expensive car available in Canada?

  • avatar
    plee

    I had an 83 base wagon with 1.5, 5 speed with a factory pop up sunroof, power steering and a/c. I bought it used with about 50K and sold it with 105K. It was good for mid 30’s gas mileage but sure was slow with 69 horsepower. My oldest learned to drive with it, I figured it was too slow for him to get into trouble.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Check the quilted vinyl on the door panels. And the padded kick plate next to the accelerator. Such luxury!

    Man, have we become spoiled.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Not sure this is a base model. Mine was a base model–and had no arm rests on the doors…those fancy extras were only available to the richy-riches who moved up a trim level.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Believe that you are correct. Ours did not have ‘cloth’ seating or arm rests. The radio is an upgrade/option. As is the interior carpeting, which ours also did not have. We had a thin ‘rubber’ lining on the floor and in the trunk.

      Those who call current ‘economy cars’ “penalty boxes” really should have to spend a week driving in some of the economy cars of the 1960’s to early 1980’s.

      Are those interior door panels original?

    • 0 avatar

      Times sure have changed. I saw wind-up windows and no sunroof, matched with steelies and plain white paint – said base to me!

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        There was base, and then there was BASE. The Chevette Scooter – flat interior door panels with no armrests and no back seat – was BASE.

        https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2018/03/junkyard-find-1976-chevrolet-chevette-scooter/#more-1615140

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Base meant no carpeting, no passenger side mirror, vinyl seating (driver seat adjustable one way only), no arm rests, no radio. Usually manual everything (steering, brakes, windows and door locks). I seem to remember some vehicles that came without an interior light? Also I believe, one speed wipers (on/off only). The base Mini had sliding windows and a ‘string’ to close the doors. No glove box, instead a shelf. VW Bug’s came for a number of years without a gas gauge. And of course no workable heater.

        Cigarette lighters and even in some vehicles ashtrays were upgrades. So were rear window defog systems.

        No interior latch to open the hood or the gas cap.

        In 1976 I drove a vehicle with A/C and power door locks and power windows, and ‘got the business’ from my friends for spending money on such a luxurious vehicle. Most vehicles on the road in Ontario then had none of those options. It was however very popular with the fathers of many of the girls that I dated.

        A base Toyota Corolla from 2019 has standard equipment that would have been unheard of luxury in the 1950’s and even the 1960’s.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    I remember riding in one of these. At expressway speeds the door window frames were sucked away from the body via aerodynamic lift and created raucous wind noise on the highway. Quality!

  • avatar
    jatz

    Much love for early ’80s Nissan product. Indestructible little goats.

  • avatar
    civicjohn

    First new car I bought, a 1982 2-door hatch. Mine had a removable sunroof, 4-speed, I thought it was a great car.

    But mainly I remember that my interest rate was 18%, and I had to get my mother to co-sign with me.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    One of my coworkers had one of these. When she bought it new and showed up at work with it, we immediately started razzing her about buying a “station wagon” and turning into a old married lady.

    “Station wagon?.” she surprisingly replied. “I thought it was a hatchback!”

    It was a decent reliable car with great gas mileage that gave her years of trouble-free service. Then she bought a Saab…

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Miserable

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    It looks like it would hold a lot of stuff. I wonder how the total cargo volume compares to a modern cute ute.

  • avatar
    LectroByte

    Wow, I must be getting old. I don’t think that is the base model, I had an ’82 base model coupe, 5sp, 1.4(?), and I remember that car very well. The base model had vinyl flooring like a pickup, no passenger side outside mirror, vinyl seats, and the grill trim was black plastic instead of the plastic chrome shown here.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    An interesting discovery!

    After a successive string of Opels and Alfa Romeos, my father eventually bought his first Japanese car which was a Datsun Sunny wagon. This was in the early 1980s, I do not remember the exact year of the car, the engine or the transmission (it had a manual transmission, but the number of gears elude me). The color was pale ‘metallic’ blue, I remember that. The car pictured here looks similar, but if my memory has not abandoned me the European models did not have sealed-beam headlights.

    From what I remember, the Datsun, like the Opels and Alfas before it, was generally reliable and cheap but had a short lifespan due to rust. We only kept it for perhaps three years, maybe four. I do not remember.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    A 1983 Nissan Sentra hatchback was my first new car. It stood out in the parking lot of the commuter college I attended for NOT being a Chevette. In fact, with 79 horsepower, it was practically a hotrod compared to a Chevette. It was a good car, I always thought it was better than any of its competition of the day. The 1985 Honda Civic was better, but it wasn’t around in 1982-1983. I kept my Sentra until 1987 when, at 80k miles I thought things were going to start going wrong with it. I traded it for a much more luxurious 1988 Mercury Tracer. A close friend bought a 1982 base model Sentra right after I bought my 1983, and he put 400,000 miles on it.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I’m having some serious flashbacks here – in 1990 my older brother bought a used 1984 Nissan Sentra wagon for us to use to move from Michigan to Arizona. That poor little 1.6L engine (I believe) / automatic combo struggled mightily up the mountains of Colorado, almost overheated in Phoenix, but still got the job done, albeit in a slow fashion. There was a plenty of room with the backseats folded down; we even had border patrol go through the back thinking we could have someone hidden among the personal belongings.

    That car lived on in Colorado, where we ended up for year. And then found a home in Illinois, and then, by the mid-90s, Michigan, where it finally got too expensive to repair.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    My parents rented one of these in Florida back in the day. It was a total POS. A/C broke and the rear end had some whiny gears.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    During the 1970s fuel crisis there was an ad for the 1200 about it using one gallon per day (I suppose for a 10-15~ish mile daily commute).

    (In the fourth-last paragraph, did you mean to write “Stanza” or “Sentra?”)

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    God, what a miserable car. A rubbery shifter to access all one-point-four liters of power, 155mm wide rubber on 13″ steel wheels, big rubber bumpers hanging off the ends, rubber flooring inside, rubbery vinyl on the seats…and you up front wishing you’d worn a rubber so you didn’t have to trade in your old fun car for this one with its proper rear seat, Japanese reliability, and sensible fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      What did 1982 ever do to you?

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Some folks just hate super base cars .

        When the ex and I vacationed in Hawaii we rented one of these for $10 / day, yes it was incredibly cheap but it had no troubles keeping up with traffic and climbed the Pali (steep highway over the middle of the island) easily , we just left the windows open (no AC) and I kept the engine on the boil, my only complaint was crappy AM radio and I guess it was noisy , I didn’t really notice/care .

        -Nate

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